Comment: The darkest hour is just before the dawn

Latheefa Ahmed Verall is former President Mohamed Nasheed’s maternal aunt

I was twenty-eight when Maumoon Abdul Gayoom became the president of the Maldives. President Nasir had been demonised and vilified, and a saviour, like a shining beacon of virtue from the deep, ancient bowels of Al- Azhar had appeared. He came in trailing clouds of glory that was Islamic scholarship. I was simply bowled over – to use a phrase that he and I probably share as lovers of cricket!

The year 1978 was an auspicious year for us both. I was expecting my first child; he was starting on his life’s work as the longest ruling dictator of Asia. Our paths never crossed of course because he was in the business of silencing public dissent in a frenzy of torture and authoritarian heavy handedness, while miles away in New Zealand, I was in the business of teaching my students and eventually my own children, the importance of asking the question ‘why’.

I want to talk to you, the readers of this website and also to others in our extremely divided nation, so that you may open your minds enough to listen to the reason why we must never, never give up striving for our rights. Get over the fact that I am [former President Mohamed] Nasheed’s aunt, get over the fact I live over eleven thousand kilometres away. I am 65 years old and smart enough to separate what I want for my nephew and what I want for my country. They are two different things. This is for my country.

For those people who question my right to voice these concerns, I have this to say. My generation in the Maldives had no voice. We did not have the know-how or the belief that we could stand up to what was unfair, corrupt or unjust. Most of us, particularly women, believed that life was about accepting the status quo, being obedient, humble and respectful towards authority and power. That was the world-view we held and we strived to live ’good’ lives within it. We forgot to ask the question why things were the way they were.

When I saw the pictures of Evan Naseem, his dead body beaten and bruised, his hair matted in his own blood, I realised this was an atrocity that had been years in the making. This lack of respect for human life and dignity had its roots years before 2003. My generation had allowed the regime to come to that point of inhumanity because of our impotency and lack of action. I wept as the words, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” resonated in me. I have never forgotten their significance.

Our impotency came in many guises: we thought bowing down to authority, however unfair, was part of our heritage, we thought it was what our religion demanded of us, we assumed that deference was owed to a ruler simply because he was the ruler and finally we feared that the regime was too powerful to be affected by our concerns.

Today, the imprisonment of Nasheed and the unleashing of the regime’s vendetta on any who disagreed with their Grand Design, are natural progressions for a group of people who had always dealt with problems in a predictable and unimaginative way. They have no answers other than sheer brutality. But now, we the people, no longer find this acceptable. We are no longer prepared to consider it the norm. Those early activists and opposition supporters have helped liberate us all. And all of us working together have finally brought the eyes of the world on the Yameen/Maumoon regime.

[President Abdulla] Yameen, with the same lack of imagination, is following in his brother’s footsteps, and the prisons are once again filling up with their opponents. The events of the last few months scream out the desperation of a group that has once again run out of options: an ex-president jailed by a regime-controlled judiciary who, because of their incompetence and the political pressure of their masters, turned Nasheed’s trial into a farce, a defence minister sentenced for terrorism because of insurmountable differences and divisions in their own dog eat dog cabinet, a predictable falling out with their rich coalition partner who facilitated the regime’s return to power and is currently kept impotent by the threat of financial ruin and finally the country spurned by all freedom loving citizens of the world. Their solution: to move towards a state of emergency because they cannot control the citizenry other than by force.

This mounting opposition to the regime makes it abundantly clear that this is not Nasheed’s fight alone. He is not the only one to suffer brutality and injustice. Under this regime, to various degrees, we have all been within prison walls and we have all suffered from huge injustices. And our fathers, mothers, brothers, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and friends have been affected by this cancer that has destroyed the very soul of the country which we hold dear to our hearts.

I am a student of history and I know that in any great struggle between the forces of tradition and modernity or the rights and wellbeing of all people and the greed of the few, the hardest time is when we feel that fortune has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. With Nasheed in prison, the regime in control of the judiciary so that they can dish out their malice willy-nilly, and the police high on testosterone, it may appear that our objectives are all but unattainable.

But life’s great lesson is that this is exactly the time for us to view our achievements and persevere in the face of adversity. The darkest time is always before the dawn. This is the time to have faith in our ability and not give up. This is the time to increase our resolve, increase our determination and increase our action.

Why?

Unlike my generation, today’s Maldivians are not incapacitated by years of tradition and social isolation. The question ‘why’ has been asked. People have dared. And more than that, we have several leaders in prison and this may well be a positive turning point, as for the first time, the eyes of the world are turned on the Maldives as never before. The time is ripe for our action, to actively insist that we do not want a future of brutality and suppression.

The regime believes that by imprisoning Nasheed and other leaders they can curb the move towards democracy and return to the good old days of untrammelled power. But these arrests give all of us the unheralded power to break this regime. We can prove them wrong. They can continue to imprison people, but they cannot suppress an idea. They cannot imprison or beat an ideal.

The time to unhinge this crumbling, ancient relic of a regime is now. This is our time to act.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]

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11 thoughts on “Comment: The darkest hour is just before the dawn”

  1. Ms Verrall Says 'I am a student of history and I know that in any great struggle between the forces of tradition and modernity or the rights and wellbeing of all people and the greed of the few, the hardest time is when we feel that fortune has taken a dramatic turn for the worse'

    True, Ms Verall, its all about fortune (money and greed). But 'fortunes' have been taking dramatic turns in Maldives with every election from President Nasir, to Gayoom to Nasheed to Waheed and now to Yameen.

    You may be a student of history but not all 'great struggles' as you call it, are for the common good. Not all fights are between good and evil. In fact, most fights are between evil and evil with the citizens having to choose the lesser of the two.

    And the 'greed of the few'. You are right again. This is all about greed .... and fortune. Not the wellbeing of the people.

    I would bet my life that, should the Government change again and MDP power is restored, in a few months Adaalath and JP will join the PPM and same thing will repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat....

    Thanks for mentiong that you are an Aunt - shows that you have more decency to be honest than most.

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  2. Well written article, and if you go a few decades back in history can see same type of government in DDR, so what you realty see here is a miniature DDR without the walls 30 years ago

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  3. The brightest hour for Maldives would be when MDP actually unites the opposition, provide leadership and devote all its energy in winning elections.

    Street chaos and emotional outbursts in the hope of a 'short cut' is the dumbest thing... simply stupid.

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  4. Mohamed Nasheed ruled for everyone. Asandha and the hope of a welfare state came with Nasheed. So even Yameen cannot do away with that now. Even Kaaminee leaders cannot ignore that "rahyithun" cannot be ignored by just saying "gaum". We never had justice. Hopefully next time around even justice will come to this nation. And then future leaders will not be able to ignore that either.

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  5. @Ms Latheefa Ahmed Verall
    One may write essay, prose, poetry and song. It is the lyrics that matter. I have heard of Ms Latheefa Ahmed and Hawwa Gasim in the 70s, long before most of the present active generation in the Maldives was born. Ms Latheefa has not been living in the Maldives and has only the experience of listening to here-say and may be, what has been written in the columns of Minivan News and the like. The two of them went on full scholarships to study in New Zealand under bilateral-cultural aid scheme. The two of them did more. They were known to very bright kids . They eventually settled down with their local spouses in New Zealand.They have since contributed more to the New Zealand community than the Maldives. Since then, their lives have been more" New Zealandish" than Maldivian in every sense of the word. Blood is thicker than water. Now, here is an aunt trying to make an impression on a situation in the Maldives where a nephew has committed a crime according to the Maldives Law and he happens to be a former President of the Maldives. Respect the Law of New Zealand and give due respect to the Law of the Maldives. The religion( and there are many in New Zealand ) and there is officially only Islam in the Maldives. Basic ethnic origin is considered to more of European and ethnic Maori mix. It is written in the constitution of the Maldives that a Maldivian has to be a Sunni Muslim. A Maldivian will want best to be known as a Dhivehin as all Dhiveheen converse in Dhivehi language. It is not surprising at all therefore, for Ms Latheefa to claim: " I am 65 years old and smart enough to separate what I want for my nephew and what I want for my country. They are two different things. This is for my country." Ms. Latheefa, you are crying for a country where you don't seem to belong anymore and the mere fact that you are a dependent more of here-say and exaggerated rumor. Where were you when 100s who sacrificed their lives during the 30-years of Dictatorship? Where were you when freedom seeking writers like Old-man-Shafeeg, Hassan Maniku, Alii Moosa Didi and Latheef suffered in solitary confinement? I wish you that you please stay away from MY Beloved Country and Stop your Divisive Politics so that we may have PEACE in the Maldives.

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  6. Mr. Habibib.
    Thank you for participating in the discussion. I am a bit of a debater and I can't resist some of the assumptions you have made.

    It is true that I live away from the Maldives. But I have a Maldivian passport, a Maldivian ID card and I have voted in Maldivian elections. I suspect this gives me the right to have an opinion on the maldives.

    Don't jump to conclusions Mr. Habibib. When old man Shafeeg was writing, I visited him at his own home. I wrote to Mr. Gayoom several times about justice and my unhappiness about what was going on in the Maldives. And remember this was years before we were allowed to criticize the regime. I took the risk.

    I could pick on a lot of points you made, but really! Assuming that my dhivehi is not good very kind. I have this feeling that my dhivehi is as good as yours and perfectly acceptable. Strangely enough I am reading 'Dhonthukallage gehlunu Furavaru' this week. I have a collection of dhivehi books and translations in my library which is so precious to me, it is insured. I have, perhaps one best collections of Maldivian stamps that I know of. (I know, stamp collecting is not too cool today!) I have read a ton of old classics like 'Noumaan Va Mariyam' and I my debating abilities in Maldivian is what inspired me to be interested in public speaking and debating in English. Just as my interest in Maldivian literature inspired me to study English literature.

    "My Beloved Country'! Ha! You don't own it, so don't sulk about it when others love it too. I don't have to measure up to anyone's standards to love my own country. And about Hawwa and I being bright. Bright is not about the IQ, it is about being open to new ideas. Your brain is like a parachute, I read somewhere. It works best when it is open!

    Latheefa Verrall.

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  7. @Ms Latheefa Ahmed Verall,
    Thanks for the response.
    Contents well received and well noted!

    TRUTH HURTS!

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  8. What habibib and the rest of their ilk conveniently likes to forget is "what crime?"

    After all, Nasheed did his duty as president of the Maldives. If a corrupt judge like Abdulla Mohammed is willingly permitting the blood of the innocent to be shed, then it is the President's duty to stop him, laws protecting scum like him be damned.

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  9. Dear Ms. Latheefa.
    Thanks for this wonderful insight of a reality.
    I am sure the many who know you, will believe able to discuss anything with you and reach common grounds and understanding.
    President Nasheed, to my belied did try his best to bring about a good governance system which would have eliminated all what was unnecessary.
    But it is unfortunate that the 30 year of authoritarian rule did have its remains within, and eliminated Anni instead!
    I totally will agree with you. Yes!
    "The time to unhinge this crumbling, ancient relic of a regime is now. It is time we act,"

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  10. I am pessimistic about the... "humanity..." of both sides of the political divide, so, even though I can't completely agree with all of Mrs. Verrall's ideas, I must say though, Mrs. Verrall writes some beautiful things, learnt a lot from it...

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  11. @Latheefa Ahmed Verall,

    As much as "Unlike Poles Attract" I have a feeling that we may have a common interest in reading Old-man-Shafeeg's works. I wonder whether we may be able to discuss on more academic matters of the like of the Works of Old-man- Shafeeg even on a different platform.
    Old-man-Shafeeg’s works on history, rich Maldivian culture, language and tradition may otherwise bury with foreign influence of influx of other nationalities and cultures. The most appropriate and relevant of the whole lot (you may as habit dictates, not agree with me) will be "Athamana Huraage Shakuwa" because of its relevance to Male’s status-quo, his predictions for Male' and the rich Dhivehi vocabulary. Written in the early - mid 1980s and officially became a "Must Read" short story from 1995 for students sitting for GCE O'Levels.
    Politically inclined and mischievously provocative but with heavily politically inclined messages are laden in the following Short Story works of Old-man- Shafeeg : HUS GOANI, BOATAH JEHUNU WAA, BALA BIHEY HARAAMEE, "SEENU NUKIYAA DHATHURU, KAKUNEEGE HURAA, NIYAAMA DHATHUREH KUREVEYNEE JEHUNU RAALHU OBUNEEMA EVE, KOAMAS EYENEH DHRAHANAA KOHLUN, MAAVEVUN GERI NEGUN, BODU DHEGERI THALHANGNAA..........., VARUHUREE BEYSAA AKU NOONEVE. FAISAAGA EVE, E BUNEE E BUNEE, BARAKAIYTHERI KUDA MUSAARAYAA SUNPAA BODU MUSAARA, POLITICAL DISEASE, VAKAUGE AAI VAKARUGEY KUDHIN, RAASTUS, E HEEVES E EE HUS BILAAHEH, MUDA HANDHI HAKURAA, MAYAIN LHAI NINMAALUN, GIRAAVARU MEEHUN BODU HANGURAAMA HUHTUVAN ULHUN, FURATHAMA QAANOONU ASAASI FESHUMAAI NIMUN, RAALHA VALHEEGE HAROASHIN, NAHAMA IN KURI KAIVANI, NIZAAMEE VOTUGE EH DHUVASKURIN..............on and on and on...............goes on! I am sure by now you would have read them all or archived them. If not, please contact the publishers Novelty Printers so that if need be, consider that you have a friend in the Maldives who would one day treasure an academic chat with you.
    Having the good luck of meeting you here and taken full account of the fact that you commit to identify yourself to be a Maldvian while living in New Zealand and assuming that no sooner you set your blessed feet on the rich white sacred sands of the Maldives you will consider yourself to be a New Zealander, I am yours very sincerely ,HABIBIB.

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